A Sense of Place: The Rich Brothers

Last year we took a trip to the studio of The Rich Brothers to interview them for issue 2 of our magazine. Landscape gardeners, Harry and David Rich, are the brothers behind Rich Landscapes. Their innovative and fresh approach to garden design has led to collaborations with fashion brands, international clients and a show on the BBC. They discuss the influence of architecture, their rural upbringing and getting back to basics on their annual surfing trip. Rich Brothers RHS Chelsea Rachel Warns(Vital Earth The Night sky garden designed by The Rich Landscapes sponsered by Bord Na Móna at Cheslea Flower show 2014. Image by Rachel Warne) How did Rich Landscapes come to be? H&D - It was never our aim to create Rich Landscapes. We both studied Landscape Architecture, which provided a great source of inspiration. Harry started a small gardening company while Dave was at university, and when Dave was on holiday he helped out with some projects. We completed our first garden at Chelsea [RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2013] called ‘Un Garreg’ and that’s when we decided that this was exactly what we wanted to do. So all in all it was an easy decision, a decision we have never looked back on. When you began working together, what did each of you bring to the business? Harry - We have always brought different skill sets to the company, but at the same time we are very connected. I think that is why we work so well together. We both love designing and being creative – I’m lucky that I may get to do more sketching and Dave is a bit more on the detail side, but being just the two of us in the studio means we cover every aspect of the design process. Harry Rich(Image by Jim Marsden for Such & Such Magazine Issue 2) You have a beautiful quote by the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright on your website. Can you speak about how architecture influences your work? "Every geat architect is – necessarily – a great poet. He must be a great original interpreter of time, his day, his age.” – Frank Lloyd Wright H&D - We have always seen the importance of architecture and the ability it has to influence spaces. Views, flow, materials and style all play a pivotal role in our approach. The quote from Frank Lloyd Wright reminds us that we are the next generation of designers and we will always look to keep our designs innovative, fresh and stimulating. David Rich(Image by Jim Marsden for Such & Such Magazine Issue 2) In 2015 you were the youngest ever exhibitors to win a Gold at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. What did you feel you brought to the Show? H&D - It was great to come back to Chelsea in 2015. We had already created two gardens but were still very new to the process. We saw this as a huge opportunity to create a garden that combined raw honest mechanics with a fine naturalistic planting scheme. We wanted to take the garden to another level by designing a building to move from one end of the garden to the other. Being the youngest designer to stage a main show garden comes with responsibility, to push boundaries and step out of the norm. RHS Chelsea 2015 Rich Brothers(Image courtesy of Rich Landscapes) You have been called ‘the most fashionable thing in horticulture’. How do you balance the demands of creating temporary spaces with projects that are designed to last? H&D - Temporary spaces always come with their difficulties, it’s an unorthodox direction to take when creating a living landscape. But even though these spaces are only short lived they have the ability to create an atmosphere and a character that many people can enjoy. When creating these exhibitions you get to focus all your attention on the season it falls into: Chanel was all about capturing autumn as a gold thread led you through the garden to the doors of the exhibition. It was incredible to have over 200,000 people walk through a garden that was only up for three weeks. When designing our private gardens we have all the seasons to think about, it is less static than the exhibitions as the seasons come and go shedding new light on the garden. It’s incredible how a garden can physically and atmospherically change, a garden in summer can look dramatically different to a garden in winter, so the exciting and stimulating aspect of what we do is to be able to think about this change and watch it mature and evolve. Rich Brothers studio by Jim Marsden(Image by Jim Marsden for Such & Such Magazine Issue 2) Were you close growing up? Did you ever imagine that you could work together someday? Harry - No. We did spend a lot of time together when we were younger, and Dave says he remembers us both just disappearing for the day only to come back for supper. Growing up in the middle of nowhere created a strong bond and you end up having to create your own fun. It has worked out perfectly, as we pretty much do the same things we did when we were younger... but have just grown up a bit. How has your upbringing influenced what you do now? Are there parts of your life where you feel you have followed in your parents’ footsteps? H&D - Being brought up in rural Wales definitely influenced us. There is a freedom that we both feel when we get back to nature. We were both always outdoors but not from a design or even a gardening sense, it was more about freedom and that unconstrained living has moulded us into doing what we love now. We both have memories of driving Dad’s old Massey Ferguson tractor called Noddy with a topper on the back. We would take it in turns to drive back and forth cutting the meadow in the fields but leaving areas wild. Our Dad spent eighteen years working in forestry around Wales, forging a deep connection with the local landscape. This has definitely been passed down to us. What makes working with a sibling different from working with anyone else? Harry - It is the ability to be too honest... I think the sugar coating gets completely removed and you are able to be a little more direct. There is nothing better than working with someone who is equally as passionate about what they do and where they want to get. Though it does help that Darcy my black lab can keep us both sane. Harry David Rich Darcy Dog(Image by Jim Marsden for Such & Such Magazine Issue 2) In what ways are you most alike and most different? David - We spend an extensive, intensive amount of time together, so have over the years become inseparable, though we do argue and now and again do different things. But it tends to be that when you both have very similar passions and are blood related then you become alike. But we do have our differences - I tend to live a more minimal life than Harry, clutter is something that would send me mad... but across the hall Harry’s room always seems to be messy which he manages to drape into the studio... cluttering up his side of the desk. He always seems to think it’s because he is ‘highly creative’. On the other hand we tend to love travelling with the bare essentials, normally a pop up tent, a trumpet, guitar, a stove, coffee and oats will be sufficient for our surf trip, again it’s the simple things in life that we both enjoy. Rich Landscapes works closely with craftspeople and architects, as well as with brands such as Cloudy Bay and Chanel - can you talk a bit about how these collaborations work? H&D - We always look to collaborate when we can, especially if it’s with a brand like Chanel, which doesn’t happen everyday, or with local carpenters and mechanics such as for our Cloudy Bay garden. Gardens are comprised of many elements, and a depth of detail can make the simplest forms very special, so working alongside skilled craftsmen allows us to be as creative as possible. We have a close-knit family of craftsmen who we work with on our projects - it normally starts with Mum cooking a big pot of spaghetti bolognese and the discussions begin, back in Wales of course. When we collaborate with brands such as Chanel the process is a little different. We were given the brief to depict Coco Chanel’s life and then left to our own devices. We remember doing copious amounts of research on her life, her lovers, her style and where she travelled. We feel that gardens need to have emotion and character so having a narrative to work with is a way of telling a different story. Rich Brothers Chanel Garden(Show garden designed by the Rich Brothers for The CHANEL Mademoiselle Prive exhibition at Saatchi gallery October 2015. Image by Rachel Warne) Your work has clearly been influenced by the landscape of the Brecon Beacons, where you grew up. Now that you are based in London and working on projects around the world, can you talk about how you assimilate both the local and the international in what you do? H&D - Each project has its own sense of place - this is something we always research before beginning a project. Now we have started working abroad, it has become really interesting looking into the native planting and kinds of materials that surround the project, as well as local craftsmanship. Materials and plants are the fabric of any garden or landscape, so having the opportunity to travel, explore and learn has a dramatic influence on us as designers and plantsmen. From what, where or whom have you learnt the most? H&D - To begin with we sourced our inspiration from our surrounding landscape. Nature has always been key to our approach, whether it is a planting scheme, hard landscaping or simply an atmosphere we wanted to capture. As we have grown as designers we look to source our inspiration from different artistry. Architecture is something we both find fascinating: Frank Lloyd Wright chose to sit his buildings into the existing landscape, creating a harmony between something man made and the natural forms that existed, quite the opposite to [the 18th Century landscape architect] Capability Brown who chose to demolish things if they were in his way. It was this sensitivity that we love, to work with the sense of place. Rich - Rachel Warne Night Sky(Vital Earth The Night sky garden designed by The Rich Landscapes sponsered by Bord Na Móna at Cheslea Flower show 2014. Image by Rachel Warne) Can you describe a typical workday and a typical day off? David - Working days consist of Harry playing jazz, taking Darcy out, working hard, drinking tea and cycling home. Days off normally still revolve around cycling. I normally get up on the weekends around 6am to go skating, whereas Harry enjoys a lie in, cup of coffee and a book! We then do the usual, friends, food, walk the dog and drink tea. Can you describe a tradition you have inherited, and a tradition you have created? H&D - We are both obsessed with tea. At home we would always have a nice cup of tea when returning home after being out and about and that’s definitely something we have carried on. The last couple of years we have made a pact to go on a surfing trip every year. Camping, coffee, oats and whisky... simple things. It’s a break that reconnects us to nature and allows us to spend some good times with friends. Chanel Rich Brothers collaboration by Rachel Warne (Show garden designed by the Rich Brother for The CHANEL Mademoiselle Prive exhibition at Saatchi gallery October 2015 UK. Image by Rachel Warne) Your Instagram feed features envious shots of your travels – how does travelling influence what you do? David - We always say that there must be a balance between work and life - we never want to feel like our work has absorbed us. Whenever we go away to see projects or do a bit of travelling we try to capture our moments. I remember sifting through my Grandpa’s boxes of slides, and it is the thought of leaving behind photos for future generations. We find travelling inspires our work. It can sometimes be the tiniest detail but a detail we use in our next project. As we write this a new series - ‘Garden Rescue’ - is being aired on BBC 1 featuring yourselves and TV gardening veteran Charlie Dimmock. How does it feel to be stepping into the shoes of Alan Titchmarsh? Harry - I have tried his shoes on but they are a little small! It has been so much fun filming Garden Rescue, Charlie has been amazing. It would be great to be the new generation of garden designers on TV... it’s an industry that could be so exciting and innovative, given the chance. That is our goal. Rich Brothers Studio by Jim Marsden(Image by Jim Marsden for Such & Such Magazine Issue 2) What are your dreams for the future of Rich Landscapes? H&D - To carry on getting projects that inspire and push us as designers, a balance between public and private work around the world. We would also love to work on developing really exciting TV shows that inspire the next generation... but most importantly extending the length of our surf trips as we get older! Rich Landscapes Studio by Jim Marsden(Image by Jim Marsden for Such & Such Magazine Issue 2) A big thank you to the Rich Brothers for their time and giving us a fascinating insight into their life as Landscape Gardeners and designers, and to Jim Marsden for the fantastic images.)